Enhancing Your Shape with Liposuction

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 1.29.17 PMYear after year, liposuction remains the most common cosmetic surgical procedure in the United States and around the world (although breast augmentation often competes for the top spot). Cosmetic surgeons who perform liposuction are not surprised, as liposuction is one of the most powerful tools in their toolbox to help patients. Many patients, however, may not always be aware that liposuction can work to shape your body in several ways . . . not just as an isolated technique to remove fat.

Liposuction really came into its own during the 1980s. The principal of liposuction is simple – fluid is injected into the fatty layers to help remove the tissue and reduce bleeding, then a blunt hollow tube (a ‘cannula’) is inserted through tiny incisions to suck out the fat. Surgeons move the cannula into different layers and patterns to reduce the thickness of the fat layer and create a smooth surface.

Over the years, several adjunctive technologies have been developed to help with liposuction. These include ultrasonic assisted liposuction (UAL, sound waves help break up the fat), laser assisted liposuction (LAL, the laser energy helps disrupt the fat), power assisted liposuction (PAL, a vibrating tip helps break up firm tissues), and water assisted liposuction (pulses of water help break up the fat). Although the companies that produce these machines will always claim theirs is the best, all of these technologies – including standard traditional liposuction (SAL) without an energy source – work very well. The surgeon’s familiarity with the technology is far more important than which machine they use. As a patient, you should pick the surgeon, and let them use the technology that they feel will work best, rather than be pulled in by fancy company advertising or an interest in a particular technology.

So how can liposuction enhance your shape? Liposuction can remove fatty deposits of the stomach, the flanks (‘love handles’), the thighs, the back, the arms, and under the chin. Patients often treat many areas at one time, and that is a safe and logical strategy, as long as the amount of aspirate (the liquefied fat and liquid that is sucked out) does not exceed recommended amounts. Your surgeon will use the fat removal to, in essence, sculpt your new look. By removing fat in certain areas and leaving the normal fat in others, your contours and curves are optimized.

However in addition to just removing fat, liposuction is important in two other ways. When patients have loose skin, liposuction can be combined with skin removal to create dramatic improvements. A tummy tuck is a great example of how liposuction and excision can be combined . . . by removing the loose skin the tummy skin become tight and smooth, but by adding liposuction the fatty layers can be reduced and shaped as well. It is a great combination.

As a final mechanism, liposuction can function in reshaping your body by providing fat that can be put into other areas where you would like more volume. Over the past 5-10 years, this has been an exciting development in body contouring surgery, as cosmetic surgeons have gotten better and better at using fat to enhance shape. Harvesting fat in one area through liposuction, and then injecting it into another area (‘fat grafting’) can be very powerful. The transplanted fat can enhance volume in areas like the buttocks, the breasts, or the face (think fuller cheeks or softening the deeper grooves around the mouth).

It is important to remember that liposuction is not a weight loss solution – if you need to loose weight, you will get your best results if you do so prior to having liposuction. It is also important to realize that liposuction cannot tighten loose skin. If someone has loose skin in an area where fatty deposits are to be removed, then a combination of liposuction with resection of the loose skin (think tummy tuck with liposuction) is much more likely to give a good result. Liposuction works best in patients who are at a good body weight, have smooth, elastic skin, and where the fatty deposits they want to treat aren’t too big and are well defined.

If you are thinking about how to reshape your body, come in and see one of our board certified cosmetic surgeons at the Emory Aesthetic Center. We can look at your body, help you think through and refine your goals, and figure out how liposuction – or other minimally invasive or surgical procedure – can help you achieve the body shape that you want.

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